UPDATED JAN. 17, 2017: One correction and one addition were suggested by Ms. Lohmann’s daughter, Karen Lohmann. We apologize for any misinformation or confusion in our original article.
In the aftermath of poet Lucia Perillo’s death, OLY ARTS was saddened to learn of the passing on September 26 of renowned Olympia poet Jeanne Lohmann. Lohmann, born Jeanne Ruth, Ackley, died in her Olympia home with family in attendance. A memorial and celebration of her life will be held at Lacey Community Center (6729 Pacific Ave. SE) at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 13. She was 93.
Lohmann was born in Arcanum, Ohio, and attended Otterbein College and Ohio State University. She earned a bachelor’s degree in social sciences from Ohio State in 1945. She did a year of postgraduate work at the University of Kansas, then moved to Chicago, where she served as executive director for the YWCA from 1946 to 1949 and met Henry “Hank” Lohmann, to whom she was married until his death in 1985. The Lohmanns had four children and were active members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). After years of public service and travel for the Quakers and a move to California, Jeanne earned a master’s degree in creative writing from San Francisco State University in 1979.
Jeanne Lohmann was the author of over 10 published volumes of poetry and at least two book-length prose works. She was also the poetry editor of EarthLight.org and associate editor of the Friends Bulletin. She was awarded twice by the Washington Poets Association. Her admirers included Garrison Keillor, who read two of her poems on his website The Writer’s Almanac (WritersAlmanac.org). When she turned 80, her San Francisco writers’ group instituted yearly Jeanne Lohmann Poetry Awards, for several years under the auspices of Olympia Poetry Network. There’s a “poetry trail” in her name outside Providence St. Peter Hospital, and six of her poems are inscribed on the grounds and walls there. She remained an active writer into her 90s, with three books (Flying Horses: Poems, Gathering a Life and In Parallel Light: A Prose Collection) published in 2015 alone. Her final book of poems, Autumn in the Field of Language, was published by Daniel and Daniel in the spring of 2016.
“Questions Before Dark” is a 2002 Lohmann poem reprinted on Cordella.org, where her voice may be heard reading two other poems:
Day ends, and before sleep
when the sky dies down, consider
your altered state: has this day
changed you? Are the corners
sharper or rounded off? Did you
live with death? Make decisions
that quieted? Find one clear word
that fit? At the sun’s midpoint
did you notice a pitch of absence,
bewilderment that invites
the possible? What did you learn
from things you dropped and picked up
and dropped again? Did you set a straw
parallel to the river, let the flow
carry you downstream?